While wide receiver is often the easiest position to contribute early at in the NFL, the transition from college ball to the pros can still be a troublesome time. That rang true for Alshon Jeffery, who had an up-and-down rookie season with the Chicago Bears in 2012.
Despite showing some promise and occasional starting-caliber talent, Jeffery has a rough rookie campaign. In between injuries, he struggled with conditioning and mental lapses, including a game during which he racked up three offensive pass interference penalties.
When the season was over, Jeffery had amassed 24 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns. What that doesn’t tell you, though, is that he caught only half of the balls that came his way. He struggled to take advantage of his strength and size, but is in position to be a much bigger part of the Bears’ passing game in 2013.
Jeffery was proactive this offseason, putting himself in a workout program and spending time training with Bears’ No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall. If he can stay healthy and comfortably under Marshall’s wing, Jeffery can develop the tools that made him a top receiver prospect coming out of college.
Throughout the spring, it was clear that the No. 2 receiver job is Jeffery’s to lose. While Marshall has a firm grasp on the top job and the majority of the targets, head coach Marc Trestman’s new offense should open the door for more production in the passing department. An improved offensive line should also give Jay Cutler more opportunities to make throws downfield to targets such as Jeffery.
Assuming he can take Earl Bennett’s place on the depth chart, Jeffery will get every shot to shine for the Bears this upcoming season. We’ll see soon enough if he’s ready to take that next step in his maturation.